ESPN released their FPI projections for the 2020 college football season this week and for Washington State, it does not look all that great. While the projections don’t seem too positive at first glance, there are plenty of winnable games on the schedule.
The Cougars are entering 2020 with a completely new coaching staff, new quarterback, and a new offensive and defensive scheme. Not to mention the fact that the entire team will be learning the new offense and defense via Zoom or Skype as well as studying on their own.
The Football Power Index measures a team’s strength on a net points scale meaning the expected point margin vs average opponent on neutral field. Each game is broken down into the team’s win percentage of that game.
The Cougars have a 1.8 FPI which is ranked 58th in the Country. They have a projected record of 5.6-6.4 (which doesn’t add up with their game by game projections but rounding up to a 6-6 season under these circumstances is a positive)
Lets take a look at a game-by-game breakdown:
@ Utah State (Thursday, September 3)
Projection: 69.5% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): -7.8 (105)
The Aggies are coming off of a 7-6 season behind projected first round quarterback Jordan Love. Not only will they be replacing Love, they will be replacing most of their top-offensive weapons.
Houston (September 12)
Projection: 51.7% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 5.5 (44)
Last season, Washington State broke a deadly D’Eriq King in a 31-24 victory that saw Anthony Gordon throw for over 440 yards. This year’s matchup will include two new quarterbacks as King transferred to Miami after taking a redshirt year. Houston finished the season 4-8 dropping four of their final five games. Their projected starter Clayton Tune had 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while throwing for 1,533 yards last season.
Idaho (September 19)
Projection: 97% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): N/A
The Vandals have beaten the Cougars just twice since 1966 and have been outscored 98-6 in their last two meetings. While those were both under Leach, the Vandals football program has struggled in recent years including a 5-7 record last season.
@ Oregon State (September 26)
Projection: 48.4% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): -0.4 (70)
This is one of those games that goes either way and after last year’s emotional 54-53 victory for the Cougs I can see the Beavers coming after the Cougars. The Cougs victory kept the Beavers from seeing a bowl game as they finished 5-7 on the season. They will be returning most of their talent on offense including senior quarterback Jake Luton.
California (October 3)
Projection: 46.8% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 6.1 (42)
Last season the California would pull out a 33-20 victory over the Cougars on their way to an 8-5 season. They will return Sophomore quarterback Chase Garbers as well as their leading running back and receiver.
Utah (October 10)
Projection: 31.1% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 11.2 (24)
The Utes finished last season 11-3 behind the arm of Tyler Huntley and legs of Zack Moss who have both entered the NFL Draft. The Utes do however seem loaded at those positions and look to continue on the path that they finished last season on.
@ Stanford (October 17)
Projection: 22.5% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 8.9 (31)
This one kind of threw me off a little bit, the Cougars have had Stanford’s number in recent years as they have won the previous four matchups. They will have Davis Mills at quarterback who has yet to play an entire season under center as K.J. Costello decided to transfer to Mississippi State. They will also be losing their leading running back to the NFL.
Arizona State (October 31)
Projection: 58.7% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 3.7 (48)
Arizona State struggled down the stretch last season dropping four of their final six games of the regular season. They would beat the Cougars 38-24 to go to 5-1 last season before losing the next four. Sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels will have an extra year under his belt but they will be losing their top running back in Eno Benjamin.
@ Colorado (November 7)
Projection: 49.6% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): -1.3 (75)
Another one that surprised me - last season the Cougars beat the 5-7 Buffaloes 41-10 and have outscored them 100-17 in the last three years. They will be replacing quarterback Steven Montez as well as their top receiver Laviska Shenault. By this time in the year, the Cougars should be in full stride and should be able to pull this one out.
@ UCLA (November 14)
Projection: 35.4% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 3.4 (49)
After last season, who knows what will happen. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and receiver Kyle Philips will be returning but they will need to replace leading running back Joshua Kelley. The Chip Kelly led Bruins finished last season 4-8 including dropping their first and last three games of the season.
Oregon (November 21)
Projection: 11.5% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 21.3 (8)
The Ducks finished last season 12-2 with a Rose Bowl victory and beat the Cougars 37-35 for the first time in four years in a game that should have been won. They will be replacing Justin Herbert and linebacker Troy Dye but will be returning leading running back CJ Verdell and leading receiver Johnny Johnson III. The Ducks seem poised to return to the top of the Pac-12 next year but the Cougars have had the Ducks dialed in recently.
Washington (Friday, November 27)
Projection: 34.7% chance to win
Opponent FPI (rank): 9.8 (28)
The Huskies will be needing to replace quite a bit of their offense next season as well as their head coach. The positive for them is their head coach is coming from within the system but their 8-5 record last season still makes their FPI rank a little odd. Until the Cougars can beat the Huskies I see no issue in the projection.
He’s got swag. He’s got confidence. And for the moment, he’s got the starting job.
The three-star quarterback is set to take the reins at powerhouse Honolulu (Hawaii) Saint Louis with two years remaining at the varsity level and does so with plenty of recruiting momentum, having just landed a scholarship from Washington State.
Up next is Washington State QB Anthony Gordon:
Elleby, who led the Cougars in scoring and rebounding this season as a sophomore, said he has nothing to lose by putting his name in the draft pool. He can still return to Washington State for his junior season as long as he withdraws his name by 5 p.m. ET on June 15.